The city of Waco is set to start negotiations with its power provider on a new contract this year, and community members and officials are continuing deliberations on a proposal to commit to using only renewable energy.
Sarah Brockhaus, who represents Baylor University on the Waco Sustainable Resources Practices Advisory Board, has championed the shift to renewable power sources by proposing the board offer the Waco City Council a draft resolution and letter recommending the commitment.
The board will discuss the proposal for the third month in a row at 4 p.m. Thursday in the conference room on the third floor of City Hall, 300 Austin Ave. City Manager Wiley Stem III has pushed back on the proposal, calling it unnecessary and outside of the advisory board’s role of providing annual recommendations to the council.
“We think this is so critical,” said Alan Northcutt, a local physician and environmental advocate who developed the proposal with Brockhaus. “This is an existential threat, if you understand the science. We don’t want it to be hidden in an annual report.”
Under its contract with MP2 Energy that runs through March 2022, the city now pays 0.03602 cents per kilowatt hour and uses about 74 million kilowatt hours of energy per year, and the rate will increase to 0.03776 cents per kWh in April 2020, city Director of General Services Kelly Holecek said. Talks for renewal of an energy contract will start this year.
The proposal Brockhaus and Northcutt are pushing asks the city to execute a deal for 100 percent renewable energy for its next contract and to fully transition to renewable energy for all municipal purposes by 2025. It also sets a broader goal of renewable energy powering all sectors by 2050.
Stem, who represents the Heart of Texas Council of Governments on the advisory board, said he would not put the city on a deadline to commit to certain power sources. That does not mean he wants to avoid renewable sources, though.
“Certainly, renewable is something we’ll look at,” Stem said. “We’re going to have to look at the value of our budget and be responsible to our citizens. That’s what it’s all about. Cost will be a very key consideration, and if what Dr. Northcutt and some of the others are saying is right, there’s a good chance it’ll be renewable in 2022. But we’ll have to see. That market moves around a little bit.”
Cities using renewable energy often buy more than is needed and sell the excess energy back into the power grid, said T.J. Ermoian, president of Texas Energy Aggregation.
Ermoian, whose company bundles energy packages for public entities and businesses, said a shift to renewable would be “significantly cheaper” for a city like Waco since Texas leads the country in wind power and could soon lead the country in solar power.
“With public entities, the biggest thing we have to fight is inertia,” Ermoian said. “They’re going to keep doing the same thing they’ve always done.”
More than 100 cities have committed to renewable energy for municipal purposes in the coming decades, according to the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group. Georgetown and Denton are the only ones in Texas who have made that commitment.
Stem has met with city officials in Georgetown, where, unlike Waco, the city operates a public power utility, giving it more flexibility for energy options.
Brockhaus said the city should follow in the footsteps of the other cities and the board should proceed with the letter and draft resolution.
“We’d like to see the city take action as a community on addressing ways that we can act locally to mitigate climate change and stop climate change,” she said.